When former Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Gaming Policy Committee deliberated in 2017 and 2018 about if and how legal marijuana could be welcomed at the state’s casino resorts, the decision was decisive: It shouldn’t be allowed.
The 12-member committee, called together by executive order to discuss issues of special interest to the gaming industry, determined that the marijuana line was one that shouldn’t be crossed by gaming licensees because the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal controlled substance.
And anything banned by the feds could be problematic to a casino licensee and lead to disciplinary action by state gaming regulators.
Through the hours of reports and debates, committee members enabled a small opening for the business of marijuana to appear in casino settings.
In a resolution approved in March 2018, committee members unanimously approved the allowance of conferences about the cannabis industry to be staged in resort convention areas.
The resolution says, “The committee recommends permitting licensees to host conventions, trade shows or similar conferences that may be related to marijuana but whose focus is primarily on networking between participants, exchange of knowledge related to the trade and other trade or educational activities that do not facilitate the actual possession or consumption of marijuana on a licensed property in violation of Nevada or U.S. law.”
Next week, the marijuana and casino industries will see their biggest test to date with the first Budtender Awards — a two-day trade and awards show scheduled Oct. 11-12 at Mandalay Bay.
Expected attendance: 2,000
The event expected to draw more than 2,000 people is being billed by organizers as “the first-ever cannabis event on an MGM property, as well as the first-ever CBD (cannabidiol) sales, distribution and sampling event.”
Regulators, event coordinators and representatives of MGM are well-versed in what’s allowed and what’s illegal, but state Gaming Control Board member Terry Johnson, who has been the point man for gaming regulators on marijuana questions, indicated they’ll be watching to make sure nothing illegal occurs.
Keith Allen, CEO of Round Meadow Holdings, which is staging the Budtender Awards that organizers are calling a science-meets-Academy Awards undertaking — said his organization is sensitive to the state’s regulatory restrictions.
“Our event is designed to promote the front line, the budtenders,” Allen said. “It’s a networking opportunity for the brands and the dispensaries and the people within the cannabis industry to come together to talk about education. I think that’s why MGM was so welcoming to us because we are very focused on the educational aspects of cannabis and how it affects front-line employees’ effect on the decision-making power of consumers as they want to learn more about the options available to them.”
As for the planned sampling of products, Allen said it’s all about hemp-based cannabis, not marijuana.
Hemp and marijuana are among the primary species of cannabis, which contain more than 400 chemical compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve stress and anxiety, manage pain and battle insomnia. Of the 400 compounds, 113 are cannabinoids and have a direct effect on the body through cannabinoid receptors in cells.
Hemp contains 20 percent CBD and less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Marijuana contains 10 percent CBD and more than 20 percent THC which produces the high users experience.
It’s the hemp products that will be available for sampling at next week’s event. But it’s also true that most of the budtenders and dispensaries participating at the event also provide marijuana and that much of the conversations and networking will center on that and not hemp.
“It sounds like they are distinguishing between hemp-based CBD and any other products that may be derived from the cannabis plant and I think it may perhaps be more helpful than not to represent that it is hemp-based CBD,” Johnson said when asked whether the event could be problematic to regulators.
“It sounds like there’s some care being given to ensuring that there are no violations of federal law, either with regards to the actual products not exceeding the thresholds that are permitted as well as not advertising or promoting benefits of the hemp CBD that could run afoul of Food and Drug Administration guidelines,” he said.
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren was among the 20 committee members who debated the policies recommended by the Gaming Policy Committee and eventually accepted by the Nevada Gaming Commission.
Company representatives had no comment about the event, which will be preceded by “green carpet” arrivals at Mandalay Bay and will include an after-party event following the awards show Saturday night at the Light nightclub.
Allen said his group is being very…